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Oliver Stone: 'there’s no way the drug war can end’

By source, Sep 22, 2012 | | |
  1. source
    If you want to know where the best marijuana in the world is grown, just ask Oliver Stone. The Oscar-winning film director, a long-time user and an outspoken proponent of the drug, has no doubt.

    “The best weed in the world is here in California,” he tells me firmly when we talk in a Los Angeles hotel. “I’ve been doing it for 40 years as you know, and there’s better stuff here than in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Jamaica, South Sudan – and I’ve been to all those places. The Facebook generation, if that’s what you call them, are very smart kids and they make good stuff.”

    We are talking drugs because it is the theme of his latest movie, Savages, a ferocious thriller based on Don Winslow’s best-selling crime novel about two Southern California youngsters who run a lucrative business raising some of the best marijuana ever developed, until a Mexican drug cartel moves in.

    It stars the British actor Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch as the drug growers, with Blake Lively as the girlfriend they share. Salma Hayek is the ruthless head of the cartel with John Travolta as a sleazy Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.

    Laced with the politics and trade of marijuana, the subject was a natural for 65-year-old Stone, and features the themes of layered power struggles, complex relationships and damaged people that recur in many of his movies.

    “The book came to me out of the blue and it read like a fast-paced, exciting, different thriller about the drug war with a new angle,” he said. “To me it was a sun-splashed wild ride, with a lot of twists and turns – I wanted to make it in a way that it would be fun to watch, and unpredictable, with a lot of tension. That’s the best kind of movie.”

    Stone also produced the movie and co-wrote the screenplay with Winslow, making several major changes, including the ending.

    But first he did his research, enlisting the help of retired drug enforcement agents, drug growers and even what he calls “some very interesting high-level people with a lot of money in Mexico”. Aaron Johnson, who was the first actor Stone cast, received a crash course in the culture and politics of the marijuana industry from real ex-cartel members.

    “It was in my interest that they meet real people involved in the industry and feel them out, because actors relate to people better than they do to words on a page,” says Stone.

    Although one of his main sources was an ex-DEA agent named Eddie Follis, Oliver Stone is disparaging of America’s so-called “war on drugs”. “It’s a total disaster,” he says. “President Nixon called it the war on drugs in 1969 and it has completely backfired. There are more people using drugs in high school today than ever before, so we haven’t solved the problem through prohibition.

    “There’s a huge amount of money at stake and there’s no way the drug war can end because too many people are benefiting. It will never, never be won. We have customs agents, a police force, the DEA and prisons, so there’s a huge industry – several billion dollars and probably more – involved in drugs. It’s swallowing Mexico and it’s swallowing us.”

    He knows what he’s talking about. Ten days after being honourably discharged from the army in November 1968, having earned two purple hearts and a bronze star for valour in Vietnam, Stone was jailed in San Diego for attempting to smuggle two ounces of marijuana across the border from Mexico. The case was later dismissed but Stone turned from being a flag-waving conservative into an anti-establishment rebel. He was arrested again in California in 1999 for drunken driving and possession of hashish, was sentenced to three years’ probation and ordered into rehab.

    After leaving the army he attended film school at New York University, where Martin Scorsese was one of his teachers. He won an Oscar in 1978 for his first studio screenplay, Midnight Express, the true story of drug smuggler Billy Hayes’s hellish experience inside a Turkish prison, and since then has built a reputation as one of the most politically charged directors of his generation.

    Films such as Salvador, Platoon, Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, The Doors, JFK, Natural Born Killers, Nixon and W are some of the most seminal and controversial movies of his generation, and his recent documentary South of the Border needled the American Right with its glowing portrayal of Leftist leaders in South America and Cuba.

    On the way he won two more Oscars, for directing Platoon in 1987 and Born on the Fourth of July in 1990.

    Intense and restlessly energetic, he has always said exactly what he thinks and has earned the reputation of being a “difficult” director to work for. Benicio Del Toro, who plays the brutal cartel enforcer Lado, says of Stone: “He will poke at you; he will make you mad and then he’ll poke at you again. Your blood will really be pumping and then he will smile at you.”

    He has been married for 15 years to his third wife, the Korean Sun-jung Jung, and he has a daughter, Tara, 17, and two sons, Michael, 21 and Sean, 27. Sean recently proved he has his father’s penchant for political controversy when he announced he had become a Shia Muslim and had chosen to be known by the first name Ali.

    “He didn’t consult me about the decision,” says Stone senior. “He did it and I back him because he believes in it. I wish him well but if he wants to do what he’s going to do he has to live with the consequences of it.” Just as his father has done.

    'Savages’ is released today.

    By John Hiscock, Friday 21st September 2012
    Daily Telegraph


  1. source
    Savages (15, 129 mins)

    Thriller/Romance/Action. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Taylor Kitsch, Blake Lively, Salma Hayek, Benicio Del Toro, John Travolta, Emile Hirsch. Director: Oliver Stone.

    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=28347&stc=1&d=1348333853[/imgl]Bad things happen to bad people.

    In Oliver Stone's films, the wicked pay heavily for their manifold sins and the Oscar-winning writer-director certainly doles out tough justice to the godforsaken characters in this serpentine and sexually-charged immorality tale co-written by Shane Salerno and Don Winslow.

    Violence begets more violence as two best friends with a thriving marijuana business are challenged for control of their idyllic strip of Laguna Beach in California by a powerful drug cartel.

    No one here is truly innocent, even kidnap victims are painted in shades of grey.

    The script spices up the back-stabbing and betrayal with breathless sex scenes between the good-looking leads, including a hazy, post-bong fumble that suggests three might not be a crowd after all.

    Stone directs with typical gusto but he should have trimmed back the voiceover narration that occasionally errs towards unintentional hilarity, such as when the heroine compares her two lovers to cold metal and warm wood.

    She'll need to watch out for splinters.

    Talented botanist Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and his buddy Chon (Taylor Kitsch), a former Navy Seal and ex-mercenary, make a small fortune by growing marijuana in their sun-baked stretch of Orange County.

    They are connected by pampered rich girl Ophelia (Blake Lively), who showers them both with sexual favours.

    Then the Mexican Baja Cartel, run by Elena (Salma Hayek), her enforcer Lado (Benicio Del Toro) and legal eagle Alex (Demian Bichir), swaggers into the town and forcefully suggests Ben and Chon share the secrets of their lucrative business model.

    Corrupt DEA agent Dennis (John Travolta), who has underhand dealings with Ben and Chon, urges the duo to accept Elena's offer. Chon disagrees.

    "When they smell fear, they will attack us. They're savages!" he tells Ben, urging his petrified buddy to stay strong in the face of intimidation.

    [imgl=white]http://www.drugs-forum.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=28348&stc=1&d=1348333853[/imgl]So Elena ups the stakes by kidnapping Ophelia, knowing full well that the friends will do anything to recover the object of their lustful affections.

    Savages opens with a confession from Ophelia - "Just because I'm telling you this doesn't mean I'm alive at the end..." - and Stone's slippery film proceeds to twist and turn like a cornered rattlesnake, right up to the tricky final shootout.

    Taylor-Johnson and Kitsch are solid and Lively wafts prettily through her scenes in a drug-induced haze.

    Hayek has great fun with her feisty femme, sporting flowing black, silken locks as she orders the death of feeble underlings or tells Ophelia that sharing two men is a recipe for disaster: "There is something wrong with your love story, baby."

    Explosions of violence are graphic through pertinent to the plot, whether it's the gruesome torture of a mole or Chon getting Dennis's attention with his hunting knife.

    "You stabbed a federal agent!" squeals Travolta, bringing mordant humour to the blood-soaked party.

    :: Swearing :: Sex :: Violence :: Rating: 6/10

    Saturday 22nd September 2012, Kent Online
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